Irwin takes one-stroke lead

Updated: May 30, 2004, 2:23 AM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An extra nine holes made no difference to Hale Irwin in the Senior PGA Championship on Saturday.

Irwin led Canadian Dave Barr by a stroke when the third round was suspended because of darkness.

Irwin had nine holes to play in his third round and was 6-under par -- right where he was after two rounds, when he had a one-stroke lead over John Harris and Wayne Levi.

"I always want the lead," Irwin said, "but there's a lot of golf to play."

Harris, Levi, Tom Watson, Gil Morgan and Jay Haas were two strokes back when play was halted.

The players were scheduled to resume the round Sunday morning, with the final round to follow.

Irwin, seeking his fourth victory in the tournament, made nine straight pars in the third round after shooting a 2-under 69 earlier in the day.

Irwin said he struggled to stay focused as he started his third round.

"It's a grind," Irwin said. "You're sort of lead-footed on every hole. It's a little difficult because you don't know when the horn's going to blow and you know it's getting dark."

Barr birdied three of his last four holes Saturday night to move into second place.

Irwin was one of 72 players who finished their first rounds Thursday, then sat out Friday because of a flood delay triggered by more than an inch of overnight rain.

Bright sunshine and warm temperatures bathed the course Saturday.

Irwin started his second round on No. 10 and bogeyed the par-3 11th after hitting his tee shot in a bunker. He also bogeyed 13 and 16 before a birdie at the par-5 18th. He had four straight birdies on his back nine to surge to the lead.

"I look back at my round and there were a lot of good shots and a lot of 'whoops!' shots," said Irwin, who won three straight Senior PGAs between 1996-98.

Watson, like Irwin, didn't play Friday. Watson opened his second round with birdies on three of his first five holes to take the lead at 7 under. He hooked his drive on the par-4 sixth, which led to a double bogey.

Watson began tinkering with his swing on the practice range Thursday. The adjustments that worked in the first round began to fail Saturday, he said.

"My golf swing is a little bit loose right now," Watson said. "The timing is not quite there. I still believe what I'm doing is the right thing."

Watson bogeyed No. 12 after pushing a drive into the right rough, then dunked his approach to the island green at the par-4 13th into a creek and made a 6.

He birdied the 14th, but bogeyed the 16th for a 72.

"I made three or four bad swings and they all cost me," Watson said.

Watson's putting, not his swing, let him down early in his third round. He missed birdie putts of less than 10 feet at Nos. 1, 4 and 5. He birdied the par-5 seventh and was on the 10th hole when play was stopped.

Haas, making his first senior start after turning 50 in December, was even-par through nine holes in his third round.

The PGA tour regular, currently 12th in the Ryder Cup standings, made an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 second hole to move to 5 under. He dropped the shot with a bad tee shot on the par-3 eighth, chipping from the fringe and two-putting for a 4.

Haas said being one of the youngest players in the tournament will help him on Sunday.

"I feel like I'm in pretty good shape," said Haas, seeking his first win since 1993.

The cut was at 7 over, leaving 75 players in the field. Jim Dent, Gary Player and Tom Wargo were among the notables who missed the cut.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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